Parking lots precious in downtown Maple Ridge

Fifty-five parking stalls are for rent now that the Haney Bingo Plex closed on 224th Street.

Fifty-five parking stalls are for rent now that the Haney Bingo Plex has packed up and moved from 224th Street to a new location.

That’s freed up 55 parking stalls, which aren’t expected to stay vacant for long, given the need for parking in the downtown.

“Once Target opens, we can probably just about fill that,” said Bob Jones, chairman of the Maple Ridge Downtown Parking Society.

The society manages five of the District of Maple Ridge’s eight downtown lots, including the two lots on Selkirk and 119th avenues, which will have the vacant space.

Jones said parking downtown for both employees and customers continues to be at a premium. With Westminster Savings now occupying a corner in Haney Place Mall and the expansion of Target into the parking lot, the mall has lost about 50 stalls.

“Target is half full and they’re not even open,” he added.

The charge for renting a stall in one of the two lots is $35 a month. The stalls, though, can’t be held in reserve for any future development, for example, should a new tenant take over the old bingo plex.

The society is also worried about the District of Maple Ridge considering selling parking lots in prime locations if developers need the land. The number of stalls lost would have to be made up elsewhere.

Parking is crucial for business success for a healthy downtown, says Jones. “What kills the town is that people have no place to park.

“That’s why we did this [create the parking society]. Twenty years ago they were driving to Coquitlam.”

Jones said most people want parking within a block of where they’re shopping. That’s why he still favours building a multi-storey parkade in the downtown.

“Parking is everything when it comes to shopping.”

The society was formed in the 1990s to help provide employee parking in the downtown, to free up customer parking on downtown streets.

Downtown businesses paid a property tax levy to cover the $1.5 million the district borrowed to buy the properties.

The purchase amount has all been repaid, which, with interest, totaled $2.8 million. The levy has since been converted to fund the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association.

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